Backpack to Rainbow Lake via the East Rosebud Trail

Montana East Rosebud Trail

Added by Derek Tice

This hike should take about 2 days taking you to the 3rd lake along the trail with great fishing. One of the most scenic trails in the Beartooth Wilderness, so it is heavily travelled with Hiking/horseback riding.

Also known as "The Beaten Path", the East Rosebud Trail is a highly traveled and well maintained trail with amazing views and a handful of lakes along the route. The trail is ultimately 26 miles long and places you near Cooke City. Rainbow Lake is located 7 miles from the trailhead and is a perfect weekend hike with amazing scenery through the Absoraka-Beartooth Wilderness.

The trailhead (6,100') starts at East Rosebud Lake where there is a large parking area, vault toilet, and a nearby campground. The trail follows the lake for about 0.5 miles then continues following the East Rosebud Creek through a steep canyon with large mountain peaks on each side. The trail continues for 3 miles, over relatively flat terrain, before arriving at Elk Lake (6,800').

The hike takes you along Elk Lake and in about 1.5 miles you enter a rock field just before coming over a hill with a gorgeous overview of Rimrock Lake. The trail crosses the outlet over a well constructed wooden bridge and follows the north western side of the lake. The lake is fed by a waterfall that is easily viewable from the trail. The trail continues up and along steep switchbacks before bringing you too the largest of the lakes yet, Rainbow Lake (7,800'). 7 miles from the trailhead, Rainbow Lake stretches through the canyon for approximately 1 mile. The trail follows the lake to the southern end where there is a large grass area that offers the ideal camp spot.

Rainbow Lake offers great fishing and an ideal location to kick back, relax and take in the scenery. From here the trail continues onward into the Beartooth Wilderness with more lakes along the way. There are also trails that dart off of the Beaten Path that offers scenic views and nice hikes.

Pack List

  • Tent/Hammock
  • Sleeping Bag/Pad
  • Backpack
  • Water Filtration
  • Sturdy Hiking Footwear
  • Fishing Rod
  • Stove
  • Camera Gear
  • Bear Spray
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Backpacking, Camping, Chillin, Fishing, Hiking, Photography

Skill Level:



Spring, Summer, Autumn

Trail Type:



16 Miles

Elev. Gain:

1600 Feet



Dog Friendly
Easy Parking
Family Friendly

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How to Get There

about 1 year ago

The path might beat you

My husband and I set out for this trip, super excited. The review made it seem like the trail was easy enough- but it is not past Elk Lake. Further, I recommend you check the weather for wind predictions, as the canyon creates a tunnel effect. We could not find the "meadow" on the other side of the lake, so we settled for a more obvious campsite- you can tell by the boulder that has burn stains from previous campfires. Our recommendation? Camp at Elk- it is prettier and more accessible- and after dropping your gear, hike to rainbow. Save your back, feet, hips, and shoulders the pain of bringing in your gear for a just-ok spot.

about 1 year ago

Added by Derek Tice

Adventurer || Designer || Snowboarder

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